TORONTO - Steven Stamkos still has his eyes firmly set on the Sochi Olympics.
The Tampa Bay forward practised 20 minutes during Tampa Bay's morning skate at the Air Canada Centre prior to the Lightening's game against the Toronto Maple Leafs.
Stamkos' workout came after not skating at all Monday due to soreness in his surgically repaired right leg. Stamkos practised Saturday for the first time since suffering a broken right tibia Nov. 11.
Despite his injury, Stamkos was named to the Canadian Olympic hockey team. His progress over Tampa Bay's four-game, eight-day road trip will go a long way towards determining if he plays in Sochi, Russia, next month.
Stamkos said his goal is to suit up for one of Tampa's final six games prior to the Olympic break to test his tibia.
"I'd like to get into at least one game if I'm going to go play in the Olympics," he said. "We're still on that track right now.
"We're on the road here and I'm getting an opportunity to skate with the guys as much as I can. We'll see where it goes from there."
But Stamkos said he could still make the trip to Russia even if he doesn't play beforehand with Tampa Bay. The Lightning's final game before the Olympic break is Feb. 8, five days before Canada's first game in Sochi.
"If I don't play a game and feel great heading into the tournament, that's a decision that we're going to have to have," Stamkos said. "If (GM Steve Yzerman and I) have to sit down a couple days before we're supposed to leave for the Olympics, we can be honest with each other.
"If I'm at the level I think I need to be at to compete at the Olympics, I think he's going to have the trust in me to go over there and play. But at the end of the day, I have to be honest with him, if I say I'm not ready, then obviously I'm not going to be going."
Ken Holland, a member of the Canadian team's management squad, said Stamkos even at less than 100 per cent could still impact Canada's chances of defending its Olympic gold medal.
"He's a star player and even if they're not 100 per cent, sometimes 80, 90 per cent of where they're at in relation to other people is still pretty good," Holland said. "Hopefully we get good news that he's going to play some games before the Olympics and he's going over with us because obviously he's a difference-maker."
Stamkos, who had 14 goals and 23 points in 17 games before his injury, admitted if he does return in time for the Olympics, he'll likely have to play through pain.
"The bone is really strong right now, the X-rays look really good so it's more kind of soft tissue stuff," said Stamkos. "Stuff that over time, you're still probably going to have to deal with.
"(On Monday) we just erred on the side of caution, and it felt a lot better (Tuesday)."
The native of Markham, Ont., has been cleared for light contact but says he needs to participate in full-contract drills before being able to determine whether he's ready for game action.
"You can't mimic a game-like situation without playing in a game, but at least get a couple good, hard practices in with some contact and we're not there quite yet," he said. "We've got a couple weeks, there's not a lot of time, if that's going to happen, it's going to have to happen in the next week or so."
With files from CP reporter Stephen Whyno in Philadelphia
|Back to top|